Turkestan is a small, but ancient city in the Kazakh Desert.
Kazakhstan largely lacks the kinds of Central Asian historical towns that make Uzbekistan a popular travel destination, but the exception is this one, relatively well preserved, 1600-year-old city. In the 11th century AD, the great Sufi Sheikh Khoja Ahmad Yasavi turned the city into the region's principal center of learning, drawing scholars from across the steppe. In the late 14th century, Timur commissioned the creation of a massive mausoleum in his honor, which is to this day Kazakhstan's most prominent historical attraction, a major Muslim pilgrimage site, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Train The train station is at the end of Tauke Khan. There are regular trains to/from Kyzylorda, Aralsk, Aktobe, Almaty (9 to 23 hours depending on the train. There is a train from Almaty 2 at 21.53 arriving to Turkestan at 17.00 - May2016), Shymkent (3.5 hours, 800T) and Astana. International routes to Bishkek and Tashkent. Take minibus 2, 10 or 13 from the station to the Yasui Mausoleum and centre of town (50KZT, as of March 2017).
Minivan From Shymkent, take a bus to Bekzhan Bazaar (Бекжан). With the blue/orange Bazaar building to your right, go past a yurt. Go through a car park and a building with parking underneath. You can also use the smell of samsa to help guide you. The minivans are parked across from the Toyota and Hyundai dealership.There should be men yelling out their destinations as they stand next to their vans. Drivers go when the van is full. There will also be signs on the van with its destination on the windshield. The trip will take about 2 hours and will drop you off at Merey (мерей) bus station in Turkestan. It's also possible to be dropped off near the Yasawi mausoleum. The cost to Turkestan is 600KZT to/from Shymkent in a 20-passenger minivan (as of July 2017).
Public transport in Turkestan is by minibus or taxi. Minibus 2, 10, 13 go from train station to town centre near hotels and Yausaui Mausoleum. Flat fare 50KZT (as of March 2017).
Stunning 14th century building with ornate blue tiled domes and brickwork. Mausoleum was built by Timur to house muslim holy man Yasawi's tomb.
Admission price: 200KZT for locals, 500KZT for foreigners (as of March 2017).
In the grounds of the main mausoleum (and included in the entrance fee) are the following sites of interest: bathhouse, underground mosque. octagon mausoleum, old town citadel, old city gate, history museum, medieval street reconstruction.
Internet You can get online at Internet on Sultanbek Kozhanov across from Hotel Edem. (Door just has vertical red sign with Internet in cyrillic). 150T per hour. Five desktop computer stations with webcams. Printing available. Opens at 10am.
Chayhana Doylet, Sultanbek Kozhanov. Cafe/restaurant serving well priced local food, soups, shashlyk, meats and drinks. Menu is in Russian/Kazakh but has a few pictures and friendly staff to help. Borscht, bread and bottle of Coca-cola for 610T.
Hotel Edem, 6 Sultanbek Kozhanov. Good menu (in Russian) of starters, salads, mains and desserts. Laghman noodles 450T, 0.5L beer from 250T. Wifi. Staff are helpful but not many speak English.
Kafe Aspan, Sultanbek Kozhanov, across from Hotel Sabina. Smart cafe with moderately priced menu in Russian/Kazakh and friendly staff to help out. Starters, mains and desserts including shashlyk meat skewers from 220T, salads at 300T, 0.5L beer 250T. Outside area. Open until 11pm. Nice touches such as cut glass water cups and hanging table lamps.
Hotel Edem, 6 Sultanbek Kozhanov. Good selection of beers, wines and spirits. 0.5L beers (including Peroni, Miller and Grolsch) from 250T to 450T. Hookah 300-350T. Courtyard area open in summertime. Best known bar in town.
Hotel Edem, 6 Sultanbek Kozhanov. Large clean hotel close to Yasui Mausoleum with ensuite rooms from 5,000 tenge including breakfast (prices have increased as of Sep 2017, starting from 7000 tenge). On site restaurant and bar. Good menu of starters, salads and mains. Laghman noodles 450 tenge, 0.5L beer 250 tenge. Wifi. Staff are helpful but not many speak English.
Hotel Sabina, 16 Sultanbek Kozhanov. Small cosy hotel run by friendly grandpa and grandma (they only speak Russian and Kazakh), with ensuite rooms from 3,000 tenge (excluding breakfast). Has wifi coverage. Includes a courtyard for drying clothes.
Turkestan local man Ismail offers tours (in English) of Turkestan and the local area. You can contact him at [email protected], tel: 8777-095-38-45.